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Chatter of Demands

The Benazir-Nawaz team is expected to release its “Charter of Demands” tomorrow or Friday.  A sticking point between the two parties is the restoration of the pre-November 3rd judiciary.  Benazir favors postponing that to after the new National Assembly comes in (if ever), while Nawaz has consistently asserted that this is a pre-condition for his electoral participation.

Bhutto has little sympathy for the deposed judiciary.  She took umbrage at its rejection of the Bhutto and MQM-specific National Reconciliation Ordinance.  In a Dubai press conference, hours before her return to Pakistan after years of exile, Bhutto excoriated the Supreme Court, accusing it of a historically pro-Punjabi bias.  In fact, she effectively stated–guised in the interrogative–that the court did not intervene in the case of Nawaz Sharif, who she described as “a convicted person, a sentenced, convicted person who was prime minister of Pakistan from Punjab [who] was released and sent to Saudi Arabia with 40 suit cases” while her father, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, “was hanged because he was from Sindh.” [Video]

In contrast, Nawaz Sharif has much to gain from bringing back Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry & Company to office.  Nawaz has hedged much of his political future on being the pro-judiciary politician.  Chaudhry, it is said, leans somewhat toward the PML-N.  Moreover, bringing back the previous Supreme Court means the end of Musharraf, as he’d be held accountable for his subversion of the constitution, and that works more in Nawaz’s favor than Benazir’s.

Beyond this issue, the remaining gaps between Benazir and Nawaz are not considerable.  However, this point of contention is a major one, and should the two camps not reach a compromise, the PPP would likely participate in the polls while the PML-N would abstain.

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Editor:

Arif Rafiq, a Washington, DC-based consultant on Middle East and South Asian political and security issues. [About]

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